Pop Wilson from the CAF Dxie Wing has sent us this video showing the test performed on the Wing’s Bell P-63 Kingcobra’s front landing gear. This historic aircraft has been in restoration since 1999 so this test marks an important milestone.
Throughout its life, this P-63 has served many different roles, from test aircraft to air show performer. It was adopted by the Missouri Wing of the CAF, when it’s not known to us, but was still far from being completed when disaster struck. The 1995 flood of the Mississippi River left the Missouri Wing’s hangar soaked. Several parts were lost in the flood, and the Missouri Wing was forced to abandon the project due to the financial demands of repairing the flood damage to their flying aircraft and the Kingcobra was put up for assignment by CAF headquarters.
The CAF Dixie Wing decided to adopt the P-63, and the aircraft was trucked from Missouri to Georgia in the December of 1996. Here it has remained, with serious restoration work begun in 1999 and continuing through today.
We interviewed Willard Womack, one of the CAF Dixie Wing’s historians about this latest milestone to be reached in the restoration: “I walked up and help the guys check out the landing gear circuit. The gear motor was disconnected so that it would not run. We powered up the plane and flipped the landing gear switch. there was a click when the gear relay closed, but it did not open with the switch was placed to off. Killing the power to the plane would cause it to open. Dick thought it was sticking, but Willard showed him that it was free and that something was still holding it closed. It turned out to be a bad diode. He took the diode out of the circuit and the relay worked. He then connected the gear motor, and check that there was 24 volts where there was suppose to be. Which there was.
Dick told the story about finding this P-63 landing gear relay on E-Bay and bought it for twenty dollars. The man who sold it had found it in a garage sale for ten dollars. Probably the the same relay was used on the P-39 but even counting both the 39 and 63 there was still less than ten airplanes thousand built.
With everything ready we powered up the plane again, and with Dick looking, Willard flipped the gear switch to the down position. The gear motor started to run and “POP” the circuit breaker on the power unit popped. It was only a four amp power unit, and the gear motor took 100.
We installed a battery, crossed our fingers, hit the switch. The nose gear came down for the first time under electric power in over twenty years. Maybe even thirty.The video was made on about the third time.”
According to the guys in the shop by the end of the summer the wings should be attached to the main body, we surely look forward to see this bird flying again soon!
This very aircraft was stored outside the Braniff Hanger at Love Field in the late 50’s through the early 60’s when I was a small kid. My next door neighbor, a Mr. Moffett was a Braniff mechanic and in those days, nobody cared if a small kid was touring the shop as he would take me now and then. I was enamoured of this aircraft when it was in all aluminum. One day, after I was grown enough to drive, it was gone and I never found out what happened to it until I recently read about it, the article corroborated that it had been stored in Dallas, Texas. Wonderful to see it almost ready again!!